January 21, 2019

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“There are no ‘Pro-Palestine’ people. They don’t exist.” (Petra Marquardt-Bigman)


By Petra Marquardt-Bigman

The Forward recently published two fascinating articles on Syria. Both articles are fairly long and include a lot of very interesting information that isn’t easily available elsewhere, but the two pieces are also noteworthy because they were written by Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli with (far-)left views who can’t have found it easy to write what she did.

I think it’s worthwhile to mark some highlights – not least because the articles also show that this are not the best of times for people like Ali Abunimah, who make their living demonizing Israel.

The more recent of the two columns has the straightforward title“The Left Only Cares About Palestinians When It Can Blame Israel” – which is of course something we all have been saying for a long time. But I think it’s still amazing to finally hear it from the far-left.

In the opening paragraphs, Tsurkov describes the devastation recently visited on the Palestinian Yarmouk “refugee” camp near Damascus, and when you read it, you immediately realize that if anything even remotely similar was done by Israel in Gaza, the global media would cover it non-stop as top news.

Just consider this one sentence: “The airstrikes and shelling have not stopped for two weeks, preventing rescuers from retrieving the rotting corpses.”

I haven’t done a scientific study, but I’m pretty sure that the global media were much more interested in Israel’s efforts to prevent Palestinian rioters from breaching the border fence in Gaza than in what happened at the Yarmouk camp.

It’s always the same old story: #NoJewsNoNews – and the title of the piece should perhaps have been: “The Left And The Media Only Care About Palestinians When They Can Blame Israel.”

To her credit, Tsurkov highlights the hypocrisy of activists very clearly [my emphasis]:

“The silence surrounding the brutalization of an entire Palestinian population exposes something few have spoken about: that pro-Palestinian sentiment is often just anti-Israel or anti-American sentiment dressed up in disguise. And when it comes to Syria’s starving, dying Palestinian population, the pro-Palestine left is nowhere to be seen.”

“It’s a glaring double-standard: When Palestinians in Gaza endure Israeli airstrikes and a decade-long blockade, their suffering galvanizes mass protests in Western capitals. When Palestinians in Syria and Syrians are being bombed and starved, the anti-Imperialist Left either goes silent, or even worse, stands on the side of the oppressor.”

“’There are no ‘Pro-Palestine’ people. They don’t exist,’ a Palestinian Syrian from Daraa, whose family was displaced from Haifa during the 1948 war, told me. ‘We Palestinians of Syria have been killed, tortured, bombed, and displaced by the Assad regime and we’ve had no support from the so-called ‘pro-Palestine activists’ whatsoever ….We happen to be the wrong Palestinians!’”

Tsurkov’s other piece has the title“How Israel Won Over The Syrian People” – which is overstating it considerably. Yet, it’s a fascinating piece that opens with the reactions to an Amnesty International video about Ahed Tamimi on a popular Syrian news group on Facebook. As Tsurkov puts it: “most of the group’s members — all of them Syrian — reacted dismissively.”

One apparently typical comment was: “If the Syrian army was like the Israeli army, no one [i.e. no Syrian] would have been displaced from their home …If [Tamimi] had raised her head in front of a Syrian soldier, he would have field executed her.”

Another fascinating story told by Tsurkov is this:

“On April 17, 2018, when Palestinians mark Prisoner’s Day, a popular Syrian opposition website decided to mark the occasion by posting an infographic comparing Israeli prisons and those of the Assad regime.

The infographic shows that while 7,000 Palestinians are incarcerated in Israel, 220,000 Syrians are held in regime detention facilities. According to the infographic, 210 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967, while 65,000 Syrians have died in regime detention over the past seven years.”

According to Tsurkov, the remarkable shift in attitudes towards Israel is largely due to the humanitarian assistance and medical treatment Israel has provided to Syrians. However, as Tsurkov emphasizes, Syrians also changed their views because of Israeli strikes on the Assad regime and on Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. Even though most Syrians who oppose Assad understand that Israeli strikes are conducted according to Israel’s interests, “they are still pleased to see the regime and its allies humiliated and diminished.”

What I found most amazing is that according to Tsurkov, Israeli strikes “are seen as such a morale boost that opposition media activists and journalists have, at times, knowingly spread fake news about them to lift the spirits of the opposition that has suffered one loss after another since the Russian intervention in late 2015.”

Another important point I was not really aware of is that Syrian opposition supporters have apparently increasingly negative views of Palestinians, because

“all but one Palestinian armed group [in Syria] have fought on the side of the regime as auxiliary militias. These Palestinian pro-regime militias are responsible for grave human rights violations, including the siege of the Palestinian Yarmouk camp south of Damascus by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which resulted in the death by starvation of dozens of people. Liwaa’ al-Quds (“the Jerusalem Brigade”) is infamous for its abuses of civilians, looting and war-profiteering in regime-controlled areas such as Aleppo city and eastern Ghouta.”

Yet, one should not underestimate the effects of decades of indoctrination. As Tsurkov points out towards the end, “even Syrians expressing admiration for Israel are quick to believe conspiracy theories about its motivations, plans and actions.”

She also relates that during a research trip to southern Turkey, she “was peppered with questions from activists, rebel and community leaders about why Israel supports the Assad regime and prevents his removal. Although no evidence exists publicly to support this claim, many pro-opposition Syrians believe that Israel convinced the Obama administration to keep Assad in power because Assad kept the border quiet with Israel, despite the occupation of the Golan.”

Isn’t it truly depressing to think that there are people who blame Israel for Obama’s eagerness to appease the mullahs by letting them have their way in Syria so that he would get his Iran deal?

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